The cost of living in the UK
If you’re considering starting a UK teaching adventure, the cost of living in the UK is something you’ll need to consider. Below is some more detailed information to help with your number crunching.
If you are lucky enough to secure a contract or permanent teaching job in Australia, New Zealand or Canada you will earn a good starting salary, and in direct comparison the British teacher pay scale is less than at home, but what happens when the wanderlust kicks in? When that itch to travel and teach won’t go away? What do you do if want to exercise your eligibility to live, work and travel in another commonwealth country?
Well, you have a few options. You can apply for long-service leave, take leave without pay or you head over to the UK as a graduate teacher. It is something that 1,000’s of Aussies, Kiwi’s and Canadians do every year. European travel is cheap and the UK is the perfect jumping off to point to see that side of the world. The 13 weeks of school holidays also make teaching and travel viable. If you do decide to embark on a UK teaching adventure, most Aussie and Canadian teachers are initially shocked by the teaching salary in the UK. NQT’s in England and Wales start on the main pay range, which rises incrementally from £25,714 (Sept 2020 M1 Classroom teacher) to £36,961 (M6 Classroom teacher) or (£32, 157 to £42,624 for inner London).
However, there are some important factors to take into consideration here. Firstly, don’t think in dollars! The pound is a completely different currency. If you think about the amount in pounds (sterling), you can begin to visualise your money and budget a bit more realistically. This is where the cost of living in the UK really comes into play, when you’re considering your salary vs your outgoings.
Let’s crunch some numbers:
Imagine we pay you £130 per day (£2600 per month). After 20% tax, that leaves you with £2080. You will pay another 12% to National Insurance contributions, leaving you with £1768. If your rent is £550 per month for a double room, you’re left with £1218 per month to live on. (Remember, some areas will be significantly cheaper than £550 per month too).
That’s over £300 per week to cover your phone bill, leisure activities, clothing, travel and food allowance, which is equivalent to $500 AUD and $500 CAD. It’s also worth noting that your salary is negotiable and for some teaching positions and subjects, you can earn more than £130 per day.
We’ve prepared a handy guide below, so you can see just how far your salary might go. Everyone’s budget and expectations are individual, but you might be pleasantly surprised by just how affordable teaching in the UK is! To start your unique journey, talk to Teach In today. We successfully send hundreds of international teachers to the UK every year. If anyone can give you the low down, we can.
And remember, money can buy you only so much happiness!
First things first, one of the biggest living costs to consider when you make the move to the UK is accommodation. If you’re heading to London, rental prices mean it’s highly unlikely you will be able to live alone. Unless you borrow extensively from the bank of Mum & Dad, move in with Wills & Kate or win the lottery (and if any of these things are true, you probably wouldn’t be a teacher for much longer anyway!). On the flip side, however, if you are city bound, living in London will mean you are paid more than anywhere else in the UK. It was recently announced that London rental prices have dropped for the first time in 8 years, which is good to know!
The fact is, you’re going to have to house share. House sharing is actually a great way to meet people and it can help you not to feel so isolated when you arrive in a new country. You can easily consider living a few tube stops away from Zone 1 and snag yourself a real bargain of a rental. You can expect to pay £500-£800 for a room in London, including all bills. Click here for a good indicator of “hot-spots” & “not-spots” to live.
Of course, you may not want to live in London. Certain parts of the UK are significantly more affordable to live. If you are heading anywhere out of London, even one hour to live in one of the Home Counties, your rent will seriously drop.
Move further North to Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, the Midlands or Manchester and your outgoings will seriously halve. Always search for a room or property with bills included. You could certainly afford to live alone in certain parts of the UK. Many teachers who travel to one of our other locations to teach actually save money whilst they are in the UK.
For more detailed information, check out our Teach In guide to setting up home in the UK.
Tax and National Insurance
In Australia, you will pay 32.5% on a teacher’s salary. In Canada you pay between 10-40% depending on your income. Good news! In the UK, you will pay a basic rate of 20%.
National Insurance is deducted as 12% of your pay at source. It will cover your health care. If you need to visit the Doctor or Dentist, register with your local National Health Service clinic.
With 13 weeks of holidays in the U.K. school year, and readily available, cheap travel deals, your options are limitless! Popular destinations explored by some of our Teach In teachers in the U.K. include Egypt, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Venice, Scotland, Bucharest, Munich and Dublin.
You can grab a bargain and organise a return flight for £50-£199 to some of those destinations!
Take your pick from low cost airlines like EasyJet, Jet2 and RyanAir and shop around on price comparison searches to find bargains to be had by companies such as Lastminute, STA Travel, FlightCentre and Expedia. Check out Skyscanner too.
Satisfying that travel itch has never been easier (or cheaper!)
Car Vs. Public Transport
You may choose to buy a car in the UK. If you are living in a rural area, Yorkshire or Lincolnshire, you are going to need access to your own transport. You could be travelling to country villages and public transport may not provide a regular service.
Good news! Second hand cars are readily available in the UK and cheap in comparison to buying a car in Australia or Canada. Plus it’s a great way to explore the UK on the weekend & during your school holidays. You can search for cars online via Autotrader or check in your corner shop (Milk Bar for Aussies!) or in the local newspaper.
A couple of things to note:
- It’s more likely that you’ll have to drive a manual and not an automatic, as you are used to in your home country.
- It’s also worth considering that if you are under 25, your car insurance could be high. Be prepared for this and shop around on price comparison websites.
If you are living in London, however, we absolutely don’t recommend buying a car! Instead, get familiar with the TFL (Transport for London) website for all your tube, train and bus travel in London. A weekly travel pass (including Central London) to travel on the London Underground will cost you £33 per week. That covers you for peak and off peak times. It’s also best to plan your journeys in advance on the TFL and National Rail websites using the handy Journey Planners.
A mobile phone is definitely another cost you’ll need to consider. Being a long way from home means you’ll need a tariff with a good international call package, so you can keep in touch with all your friends and family.
In the UK, there are a wide range of service providers and you can shop around to strike a bargain. Try looking here for more advice.
Our personal favourite is 3. Major selling points include cheap calls, some of the UK’s most generous data allowances and free overseas roaming in 42 countries with Feel At Home. Gemma, our International Manager, used this network when travelling on her sabbatical.
Having experienced both sides of the world, we can honestly confirm that grocery shopping in the U.K. is cheaper!
For a start, there is much more choice. Head to the infamous “Poundland” for £1 staples, hit up Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, Safeway or Sainsbury’s for your weekly shop. You can always find bargains to be had and it pays to shop around. Another top tip, head to Marks & Spencer’s (M&S) and raid their gourmet food section one hour before they close! Look out for the yellow stickers for heavy discounts.
Supermarket loyalty cards and collecting “points” are a great way to receive cash back and discounts on your food bill too. Check out some hints and tips here.
Get shopping savvy with this handy consumer guide.
You can deck yourself out in new teacher threads relatively cheaply in the UK. Check out these British high street stores to ramp up your young professional wardrobe:
- Topshop / Topman
- George at Asda
- Miss Selfridge
- Dorothy Perkins
- River Island
- New Look
- TK Maxx
You will be able to hit the shops until 10pm at night in London & most shopping centers have at least one late night shopping a week. If you are hard pressed for time, you can always shop on line. Sites such as EBay, Gumtree, and even Facebook Marketplace, will sell you any item you need for a last minute outfit for a night out.
Last but definitely not least. Everyone loves freebies!
Check out some of these great websites for inspiration: